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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 85 - Joe Defies Grimstone

Grimstone receives a flea in his ear when he tries to persuade Joe Gibson to enter the black market.

John Waddington-Feather continues his fascinating story of life in a Yorkshire mill town.

To read earlier episodes please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

Joe had built a brick pig-sty near the fence. It was easier to dump pig-swill over the wall when he'd boiled it up and harrowed it across. He collected kitchen waste for his pigs from all the neighbourhood, and he boiled it in some foul-smelling cauldrons before feeding it to his sow. All through
that summer she grew fatter and fatter, and it didn't escape Grimstone's notice. There was a thriving black-market in pork and bacon.

One evening the lawyer stopped to pass the time of day with Joe as he fed his sow. "You've a fine pig there, Mr Gibson," he began, eyeing the sow appreciatively from the other side of the fence.

Joe had his back to him, bent over the wall studiously feeding his pig. He had seen Grimstone coming some distance off and turned away. Surprised at being spoken to, he straightened up and stared hard at Grimstone, taking his pipe from his mouth to send a great gob of spittle into the sty. He didn't return the greeting saying only, "Aye. She is." Then he wiped his mouth and continued feeding his pig.

Grimstone wasn't to be put off. "She's filled out nicely this summer. You must be giving her good jock," he continued, nodding at the pig.

"Aye. Ah do," Joe responded and went on shovelling the pig-jock from the barrow into the sty.

Grimstone made no attempt to go and Joe began to feel irritated. He had a lot to do that night. He was about to push off himself when the lawyer stopped him with, "You'll soon be slaughtering her, or are you waiting till Christmas?"

"Happen," said Joe, scowling as he sensed what Grimstone was driving at. The lawyer drew nearer the fence after glancing up and down the path. He gave Joe an encouraging grin and spoke out of the corner of his mouth.

"You wouldn't consider selling her, would you?" he asked. "There's lots of folks'd give a good price for a sow like her. A very good price. She'll make a lot of pork and bacon, if you see what I mean, Mr Gibson."

"Ah stick to t' regulations," growled Joe. "Ah've registered my pig an' it'll be inspected by an' by before I can slaughter it. Ah don't want to fall foul o' t' law. Ah want nowt to do wi' t' black-market if that's what tha's drivin' at."

The grin left Grimstone's face. "I didn't mean that at all!" he said hastily. "Rules are rules like you say, but there's a way round every regulation without breaking the law, Mr Gibson."

Joe's scowl deepened. "Ah daresay there is, an' tha should know, being a lawyer an' all that. Thou should know best of all, 'cos tha's bent a few laws in thy time."

Frustrated and angry, Grimstone went onto the offensive. "Your pig might get knocked off one dark night. There's lots of folks around would do it for a quick quid. Specially in the black-out. Folk get up to all sorts of things in the black-out. Then where would you be? You'd have nothing to show for all those barrow-loads of pig-jock you've put into her," he said acidly. "Absolutely nothing!"

Joe gave his hands a final wipe on some old sacking he had been cleaning out his barrow with. It reeked of pig-jock, and when he had done, he hung it over the wall right next to Grimstone, who backed off.

"Happen Ah might," he snorted. "Happen I might not. But I pity the bugger who tries to knock off my pig. He'll get his own bloody head knocked off, an' so will t' bugger who puts him up to it!"

He turned leaving Grimstone glaring at him over the fence. "I was only joking, Mr Gibson," he called feebly at Joe's back. Joe turned just before he reached his hut.

"Tha'd better be," he retorted," 'cos I'm not!" Then he went into his hut and lit up his pipe waiting for his pals to arrive for a final yarn. Grimstone avoided him like the plague ever after and took good care to hurry past the hen-pens when he went for his evening walk.

About the same time Major Kingham-Jones received his come-uppance. He made the mistake of staying in Mosley's fascist party and not getting out in time. As a result, when war was declared, he was arrested with his leader and interned, spending the rest of the war in an open prison.

He tried writing to Sir Abe, pleading with him to use his influence as a magistrate and get him paroled. He claimed that at long last he had recognised Hitler for what he was. Sir Abe didn't believe him. Once a traitor always a traitor. He returned his letter to the prison governor with the instruction that he didn't want pestering again.

The major was never visited in prison and nobody wanted to know him when he came out. When the war ended, he went into cheap lodgings in the Midlands, having assumed another name. He became a rep for a while, selling ladies underwear and making a bit on the side flogging silk stockings on the black-market. It earned him enough for a while to pay his rent and a lady friend who lodged with him, but he never went near Keighworth again.


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